NHL Playoffs Update: Flyers sinking

Nabby.jpgNow we have some movement. Some major shuffling last night in the NHL standings, as Detroit jumps to 6th in the West and the Philadelphia Flyers threaten to fall completely out of the playoff race as their goaltending issues continue to haunt them.

The Phoenix Coyotes continue to hum along, and are keeping pace with the San Jose Sharks who seem to have actually gotten back on track a bit. Amazingly, we also see the Dallas Stars make into the top ten of our standings as they take a peek at the playoff standings from over the fence.

Before we move on to the games that mattered, I’d like to make the quick observation that yesterday’s officiating throughout the NHL was horrid. This is the time of the year when there’s supposed to be good synergy between the referees and the players, as the intensity in every game amps up and with the officials generally allowing teams to play a good game.

Instead, we continue to see special teams contests as the most ticky tack of penalties are called every game.

It’s frustrating. Anyways, onto the playoff standings.


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The games that mattered:

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Philadelphia Flyers 1 – The Flyers goaltending situation would be funny if it weren’t so sad. With Jonas Backlund making his NHL debut, the rookie goaltending suffered a groin injury and forced Brian Boucher into the game. After a disallowed goal, the Flyers fell apart and the Penguins scored four unanswered goals.

Boston Bruins 5, Calgary Flames 0 – This was a big, big game for the Bruins and they didn’t disappoint. Perhaps bolstered by Marc Savard’s appearance before the game, it was the most inspired game by Boston in a long time.

Buffalo Sabres 7, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 – Don’t really need to worry about giving up that division lead after all.

Montreal Canadiens 2, New Jersey Devils 4 – Big win for the Devils, to maintain the tie breaker and division win over the Penguins. This is going to be a great race to the finish for the division title. No games remaining between the Pens and Devils the rest of the season, however. What up with that?

Carolina Hurricanes 0, Atlanta Thrashers 4 – I first though Atlanta would overcome the Bruins or Senators, but now it looks like they have a chance to take the Flyers out.

Toronto Maple Leafs 3, NY Rangers 2 – Great comeback win for the Leafs, who suddenly appear confident playing in front of a solid Jonas Gustavsson, who was facing his hero Henrik Lundqvist on the other side of the ice. Lundqvist allowed a soft goal in the final minutes, before Kulemin’s overtime goal won it. At least the Rangers got a point.

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The games that mattered:

San Jose Sharks 4, Vancouver Canucks 2 – The Canucks may rely on home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs to get through, as they are completely incapable of winning on the road. Meanwhile, Joe Thornton’s injury has Sharks fans worried. I have no idea why, though.

Phoenix Coyotes 6, Colorado Avalanche 2 – Lee Stempniak scored — of course he did! — as well as Wojtek Wolski and Derek Morris. I’d say the trade deadline moves by the Coyotes paid off. Meanwhile, they are still right there behind the Sharks for the division lead. Think that final game of the regular season will be big?

Boston Bruins 5, Calgary Flames 0 – One big Calgary facepalm. Again.

Nashville Predators 0, Detroit Red Wings 1 – A double shutout, goaltending battle? An 11-round shootout? Yes please! Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard gets better every game.

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    The Buzzer: Benn vs. Benn, poor get poorer

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    Line of the Night: The St. Louis Blues’ superb top trio.

    Seemingly every night, at least one of the NHL’s best scoring lines seems to make its case as the best. It’s getting to the point where any off night is surprising, which seems almost impossible in a league where it’s still (allegedly?) tough to score on a nightly basis.

    In Tuesday’s case, the Blues’ red-hot trio of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Oilers’ profound miseries by triggering an 8-3 stomping.

    Schwartz scored one goal and three assists, while both Schenn and Tarasenko enjoyed ridiculous two-goal, two-assists nights. Schwartz and Schenn both are at 30 points in 2017-18, while “The Tank” is rolling with 26. Tarasenko almost had a hat trick today, but settled for the Gordie Howe:

    Highlight of the Night: Jamie Benn vs. Jordie Benn, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

    (They’re Canadians, but still.)

    Shared sadness: The Canadiens lost a hard-fought game to the Stars as the 3-1 margin of defeat was inflated by an empty-netter, while the Oilers were just humiliated, yet both teams really needed wins and neither even got a standings point for their efforts. Times are getting tense for two Canadian franchises that came into 2017-18 with high hopes.

    Brendan Gallagher‘s reaction to the empty-netter says it all:

    Factoid of the Night: Clearly, it’s totally Connor McDavid‘s fault.

    Scores

    Canucks 5, Flyers 2

    Blues 8, Oilers 3

    Stars 3, Canadiens 1

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    On fire vs. fireable: Blues humiliate Oilers

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    If you judge a person or sports team by how they react to their backs being up against the wall, then the Edmonton Oilers were complete failures on Tuesday.

    Whether you place most of the blame on Connor McDavid (bad) or management (fair), the bottom line is that a response was needed, as people are already doing the math to wonder if the Oilers can dig themselves out of an early hole with a huge rally.

    Instead, we saw the same story tonight, only it was sadder and more dramatic. The St. Louis Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers by a score of 8-3, and that deficit wasn’t an unfair depiction of what happened on the ice. The red-hot Blues absolutely dismantled the Oilers, seemingly scoring at will.

    Just check Paul Stastny‘s body language after this beautiful goal; it almost seemed like the veteran forward felt squeamish about the carnage going on in Edmonton’s zone.

    Again, it was the same story with McDavid straining to create quite a few chances, even while dealing with an unspecified sickness (note: sickness not a joke about the poor team around him, this time).

    It seems fitting that the same few Oilers contributed at least something to the cause, as McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were involved in Edmonton’s three scores.

    This loss encapsulated a lot of the themes of this season for Edmonton: not enough support, a cratering structure, and goaltending Cam Talbot having a miserable night.

    Morale in Edmonton is, uh, low.

    Now, none of this should take away from the West-leading Blues’ side, as they flexed their muscles once again. Really, the main debates surrounded if the Blues were the best in the West by a large or merely a slim margin.

    It was a banner night for one of the best lines in the league in Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko.

    Tarasenko almost had a hat trick, but will settle for the Gordie Howe variety, as he dropped the gloves with Matt Benning.

    Fittingly, the Oilers didn’t even win that battle, either.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Fight video: Vladimir Tarasenko vs. Matthew Benning

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    Vladimir Tarasenko earns the nickname “Tank” because he’s a big, hoss-like scorer and because it matches up well with his name.

    He showed a different kind of firepower on Tuesday, though, as he took exception to a Matthew Benning hit and decided to fight the Edmonton Oilers defenseman. The bout happened even as the Oilers seemed like they were getting a precious scoring chance, but the crowd in St. Louis was riled up mainly to see the superstar drop the gloves.

    In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first battle for “The Tank.” According to Hockey Fights’ listings, Tarasenko fought once in 2015-16 and another time in 2014-15, while also dropping the gloves once in the KHL.

    (This is his first fight against someone not named Ryan, as he exchanged fisticuffs with Ryan Kesler and Ryan Ellis in his other NHL fights. I mean, unless Matthew Benning’s middle name is Ryan?)

    So far, the Oilers haven’t been showing as much fight as Tarasenko, as the Blues currently hold a 3-0 lead and chased Cam Talbot. Read more about what’s been a tough night for goalies so far here.

    Tuesday has not been kind to goalies

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    There are three games on Tuesday, yet we’ve already seen two goalies benched for poor play.

    If variety is important to you … hey, at least the two situations were different, albeit with some regrettable moments of pucks going into nets.

    The most depressing probably came during Tuesday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, which you can watch on NBCSN right now.

    Now, you can justifiably hang a lot of the Oilers’ struggles on poor management from GM Peter Chiarelli, yet it’s also true that teams/coaches/general managers often see their reputations rise and fall with the play of their goalies. Cam Talbot has already been struggling in 2017-18 after playing outstanding hockey – and a ton of games – last season, but tonight serves as one of his shortest and most troubling efforts.

    (And Talbot gets whatever is the opposite of bonus points for languishing while angst is nearing a fever pitch in Edmonton.)

    Talbot made it through just 7:35 of ice time on Tuesday, allowing two goals on just three shots before Todd McLellan understandably pulled the plug. This Dmitrij Jaskin goal was a real soul-crusher for the reeling Oilers:

    Credit Laurent Brossoit for playing very well in relief of Talbot, at least as of this writing. But this isn’t what the Oilers wanted to see. (Brossoit just allowed a goal, but he has been sturdy overall with a lot of time left in this game).

    Negative night for Neuvirth

    Compared to Talbot, Michal Neuvirth had a long night for the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, it was a long night in more ways than one, as Neuvirth struggled against the unexpectedly potent Vancouver Canucks.

    Neuvirth got the hook after giving up four goals on 22 shots over 34:26 of game time. Some of that’s on the defense in front of him, as Philly can’t be happy to give up so many chances against a Vancouver team that still has something to prove.

    So, this leaves one burning question: will any other goalies get benched tonight? As it is, two out of three is quite bad. Sorry Meatloaf.